WHY IS THE TAKE-UP OF MICROINSURANCE SO LOW? EVIDENCE FROM A HEALTH INSURANCE SCHEME IN INDIA

Authors


  • This research is part of the project “Role of Small-Scale Finance in Rural Development: Rural Finance and Microfinance” undertaken at the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE-JETRO). The authors are grateful to an anonymous referee for useful comments and discussion. The opinions expressed and arguments employed in this paper are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of IDE-JETRO.

Abstract

Insurance for the poor, called microinsurance, has recently drawn the attention of practitioners in developing countries. There are common problems among the various schemes: (1) low take-up rates, (2) high claim rates, and (3) low renewal rates. In the present paper, we investigate take-up decisions using household data collected in Karnataka, India, focusing on prospect theory, hyperbolic preference, and adverse selection. Prospect theory presumes that people behave in a risk-averse way when evaluating gains but in a risk-loving way when evaluating losses. Because insurance covers losses, the risk-loving attitude toward losses might explain the low take-up rates, and we find weak empirical support for this. Households with hyperbolic preference were more likely to purchase insurance, consistent with our theoretical prediction of demand for commitment. We also find some evidence on the existence of adverse selection: households with a higher ratio of sick members were more likely to purchase insurance.

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